Animals, as well as breath-taking landscapes and unspoilt nature: I would like to present you 8 films and documentaries about nature that make us want to take care of the environment and respect it, today more than ever. The historical moment, the climate crisis, the attention that (finally) the media are focusing on the environment, the production of nature documentaries able to show everyone what is really happening, are leading to a new (and fundamental) interest in the world around us and to which we have asked too much without giving anything in return.
By showing the beauty of uncontaminated nature that we risk losing as a consequence of our actions on the environment, the following documentaries aim at moving the sensitivity of as many people as possible and having a real and tangible effect on environmental sustainability.
That’s why I have selected some films and documentaries about nature to watch in order to enjoy the wonders of nature in all their defenceless magnificence and understand why it is necessary to find a (further) incentive to treat it better.
1) Planet Earth
They are two documentary series (Planet Earth I and Planet Earth II), produced and broadcast by the BBC.
Narrated by David Attenborough, they are a journey through deserts, glaciers, forests, waterfalls, islands, mountains and cities around the world to tell both the extreme life forms of these iconic landscapes and the often difficult survival conditions of the species that inhabit them.
The series produced by Alastair Fothergill has attempted to capture the nature of the earth with its diversity and beauty and has been successful worldwide. Forty teams of cameramen shot for five years in two hundred extraordinary locations around the world and presented us with unprecedented images. In addition to its breadth, the series is also characterized by spectacular images, made possible only by considerable investment, the most advanced technology and the high level of commitment of teams of specialized photographers. For example, the attack of a great white shark on a seal is shown in slow motion, which makes clear the attack technique and the power of the predator.
Visually stunning, they are among the best nature documentaries ever produced, also for the irony and curiosity with which they are narrated.
Planet Earth has received four Primetime Emmy Awards and has been nominated for four BAFTA TV Awards.
2) The Blue Planet
There are always two series of documentaries sisters of the above-mentioned Planet Earth, which however concern the life of the seas: The Blue Planet and The Blue Planet II.
Produced and broadcast by the BBC and narrated by David Attenborough, they feature the creatures of the oceans, some of them more famous, while others have never been seen before.
In particular, The Blue Planet presents the richness of marine biodiversity from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from sandy beaches to sea trenches and from the simplest forms of life (jellyfish, plankton, corals) to the most evolved (stingrays, emperor penguins, whale sharks, rorqual whales).
With an impressive cinematic quality, The Blue Planet is the result of years of filming, during which the crew observed the different species, discovering behaviours often new to science.
3) Our Planet
Our Planet is the first wonderful naturalistic production that Netflix has published.
The series, which tells in a surprising way the habitats of the most varied creatures, to be discovered and protected and some of the different species that inhabit our Planet, is composed of eight episodes, each lasting about an hour and divided into environments such as Frozen Worlds, Jungles, Coastal Seas, From Deserts to Grasslands and much more.
Let me tell you a curiosity: The series was premiered on April 4, 2019 at the Museum of Natural History in London. Among the guests at the premiere were Prince Charles and his two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, Charlie Brooker, David Beckham and his son Brooklyn Beckham, Ellie Goulding, and the series spokesman David Attenborough, who attended the event to support action against climate change. During his speech, Prince Charles said he hoped “Our Planet” would educate hundreds of millions of people around the world about what action was required, while David Attenborough called on the world to “be responsible careful citizens of this planet which is our only home, and for the creatures that live in it.”
4) Chasing Coral
Winner of the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award, Chasing Coral is the result of a massive underwater campaign organized by divers, scientists and photographers from around the world to document the disastrous disappearance of the coral reef. Chasing Coral tells the story of what we are losing by showing its magnificence and telling the story of its importance.
Without spoilers, there are two fundamental moments that leave their mark watching Chasing Coral. The first is when you discover that corals are not only living beings, but real animals extremely complex in their simplicity (and wonder) exterior. The coral, in fact, is an animal made of many other animals. “A single coral is composed of thousands of small structures called polyps”, says the biologist Ruth Gates in the documentary. “Each octopus has a circular mouth surrounded by tentacles that can aggregate together millions into a single coral.” The second is a direct consequence of the first and reveals how corals play a fundamental role for the well-being of the marine ecosystem and, indirectly, for the well-being of the entire planet thanks to a symbiotic relationship with their surroundings. A little bit the same role that the forests have for the mainland.
It is thanks to these discoveries that the vision of the documentary directed by Jeff Orlowski, whose shooting lasted three years for a total of more than 500 hours, takes an unexpected turn. From a classic work of information and dissemination, it turns into a drama capable of immersing the viewer in the corals and “immersing” them in the reality in which they live: the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. A drama because the protagonists, driven by passion, become direct witnesses of the disease and then of the rapid death of a multitude of corals around the world. They document for the first time the phenomenon of the third global bleaching that took place in 2015 with the use of the most advanced technologies, followed by the first between 1997 and 1998 and the second in 2010. Only five years have passed between the second and the third. Within 30 years, half of the world’s corals were lost.
It’s an amazing and sad documentary that you can find streaming on Netflix.
5) Ice On Fire
Produced and narrated by Oscar-winning Leonardo DiCaprio, Ice On Fire is an HBO documentary made in order to raise awareness of some of the solutions that we are still in time to adopt to avoid an environmental catastrophe due to global warming. The theme of the film, in fact, revolves around the current global climate change and in particular the dramatic effects recorded in the Arctic.
Ice On Fire is a journey around the world, from Norway to Costa Rica, to discover some new proposals – by scientists, researchers, but also entrepreneurs – created with the aim of slowing down the increase in temperatures.
6) March of the Penguins
Among the film titles that tell with more tenderness and amazement about nature and the animal world, it is impossible not to mention Luc Jacquet’s film, March of the Penguins.
Every year in Antarctica thousands of emperor penguins have to migrate to a particular territory, the only one with the right climatic conditions for the birth and early development of their young. This documentary follows a colony, from the moment of aggregation a few steps from the ocean to the birthplace, along a path of incredible length. The entire cycle lasts months, the dangers are countless, and the natural selection is very hard. Once finished the first march, which has already harvested its victims, the females lay the egg and entrust it to the cares of the male, which must keep it sheltered and warm with its own body for two months, during which the mother resumes the march, towards the ocean and the food. Their return coincides with the birth of the young: whilst the females take care of them, the males march for looking for food in their turn, after a fasting of months at the frost. Only when it returns, the family, reunited, can face the last stage together, the march back to the ocean.
Winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2006, March of the Penguins is, therefore, a moving film that focuses on the struggle for life. The feat leaves one speechless, to the point that for the first time we have the perception of the heroism of these funny, even ridiculous animals, all gathered together as they go, in a transit that has no pause even before the cruellest expressions of nature. The ultimate goal of procreation makes the mission even higher, and the polar setting, made of shining white and little else, transforms the penguins into almost supernatural beings, magical marching machines.
It is available in streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
From director Orlando von Einsiedel and executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio. Virunga tells the true story of the environmentalists’ struggle to preserve the last mountain gorillas against the national armed militia.
In the wooded depths of eastern Congo lies Virunga National Park, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and home to the last remaining mountain gorillas on the planet. In this wild but enchanted environment, a small team of park rangers – including a former child soldier turned ranger, a guardian of orphaned gorillas and a passionate environmentalist – protects this UNESCO World Heritage Site from the armed militias, poachers and dark forces fighting to control Congo’s rich natural resources. When the newly formed rebel M23 group declares war, a new conflict threatens the lives and stability of everyone and everything they have worked so hard to protect, with the filmmakers and participants caught in the crossfire.
A powerful combination of investigative journalism and nature documentary, Virunga is the incredible true story of a group of brave people risking their lives to build a better future in a forgotten part of Africa and a compelling exposé of the realities of life in Congo.
You can find it streaming on Netflix.
8) Planet Ocean
Photographer and environmentalist Yann Arthus Bertrand makes us take a dip in the oceans to stimulate our sensitivity towards the sea and its people.
Taking advantage of the missions of scientific researchers, oceanographers and biologists from different countries, the man, together with the director Michael Pitiot, becomes the protagonist of a natural enterprise of incomparable beauty and great difficulty, discovering the blue planet.
Planet Ocean changes the perception of the sea and offers more sustainable prospects for the future.
Do you and your language exchange friends care about the environment and are you afraid of the climate change we have been witnessing more and more often in recent years? Let us know your opinion in the comments.
Written by: Martina Sassi, Staff Writer